My husband and I actually watched this in theater, as we wanted to see something original and not adapted from a book. I come from a long line of Roman Catholics, and I am, by no means, a fully practicing Catholic or Christian, but I’m not an Atheist either. I have my beliefs, and I accept and respect everyone’s belief. I found this movie extremely intriguing, and it does make you ask: What do you believe in? At the end of the movie, they tell you to pick up your cell phone and text someone, everyone that “God’s not dead.” After watching the movie from start to finish, you may actually have the urge to share that message.
I’m not going into detail about the movie. You can get the movie synopsis and story line from IMDb. I’m going to choose a few characters, and I want to open a discussion about them. As usual: *** WARNING: THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS. SO, IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOVIE AND PLAN ON WATCHING, PLEASE STOP READING. THANK YOU. ***
First off, I want to look at the character of Kara, the girlfriend of Josh Wheaton, portrayed by Cassidy Gifford. Personally, I wanted to slap her which means Gifford did an excellent job giving Kara a personality of her own. When we meet Kara, she and Josh are high school sweethearts who are attending the same college… his college. She makes it clear that she could have attended other colleges but chose this college to be with Josh. This piece of information was enough to nudge me onto the “I hate Kara” side of the fence. You don’t hold that kind of guilt over your significant other. If you made that big of a sacrifice, it’s on you. Don’t blame him for not going to Harvard or Yale.
Secondly, you guys met at a Church function during high school. How is it that she’s got this set plan of being a career woman by a certain age while being a wife to Josh? Not to mention, how is it that she’s got a plan for every detail in their future together? Let’s see… from my experience, I had an image of a life plan for myself, but when poo hit the fan, I learned to just go with the flow. Kara did not strike me to be that type of person. Especially when she hit Josh with…
My third nitch about Kara over his assignment for Professor Raddisson’s Philosophy class. It’s her infamous quote: “I’m letting you know now for your own good. This experiment is over. You need to prioritize and decide who’s the most important person in your life.” Kara, I know you were hoping that Josh would say that you’re the “most important person” in his life, but girl, you’re talking to a Christian. A good, strong believer will always put God first, Jesus second, mother third, spouse fourth, and so on down the line. (As a reader, you may not agree with me, but that is how I was raise, and you can accept my upbringing or not, but not everyone grew up in the same house.) When I heard Kara’s line, I nearly guffawed in the theater and threw my popcorn at the screen in retaliation against her. I wanted to shout, “And you call yourself a Christian?” but I didn’t. I behaved myself.
The few scenes we see Kara and Josh together, it was so obvious that they aren’t made for each other, and the chemistry that brought them together is definitely lacking now. While the movie is about Josh’s quest to prove God is alive and well, during his screen time with Kara, he’s stuck defending himself from her verbal attacks, and we all know that verbally attacking your significant other is not a healthy thing.
Let’s look at another distraught, mentally and emotionally abused character. Meet Cory Oliver and her character: Mina.
Mina is dating Professor Raddisson, the guy who challenged Josh to prove God’s not dead.
Above is Professor Raddisson (portrayed by Kevin Sorbo, aka TV Hercules from the 1990s). He’s 100% an Atheist.
Well, Mina was a student of Professor Raddisson. As his now girlfriend, she’s under scrutiny with nearly every little thing she does. For starters, she’s a Christian. Second, she doesn’t have the higher education that he possesses. Thirdly, she’s like 10 to 15 years his junior, so her life experience is a bit lacking. I only say that because she makes several beginner’s mistakes in the kitchen and with food and drink that really nudges Raddisson to belittle her in front of people.
I do have to applaud Mina as a character. She is one of three “weak” characters in the movie who rise above their falls from “grace”. (In Mina’s case, “grace” is a falling out with Raddisson and reclaiming her Christian faith with stronger resolve.) We watch her take Raddisson’s verbal blows, we bear witness to her “I’m not taking your crap anymore” speech in front of people at the college, and we celebrate with her in the end as she’s at the Newsboys concert, rocking out.
There are two others that caught my attention during the movie, but I just want to look at one of them due to the severity of the character’s fall from “grace”. Ayisha, played by Hadeel Sittu, is a college student and works in the cafeteria at the same college Josh attends. When we first meet her, she’s wearing a Muslim hijab (headscarf) that covers her head and face, and she’s in the car with her dad. Turns out, Ayisha has a secret. She’s a Christian in hiding which is more disturbing when her little brother catches her listening to the Christian bible on her iPod. Guess who tattles to dad? That’s right. Little brother tells dad about Ayisha’s betrayal of their family’s Muslim faith, and dad drags her out of the house one day and disowns her.
Ayisha’s entire story line is one that feels familiar to me, though I was raised Catholic and not Islamic. Some will never know how it feels to be transplanted into a country with very different customs and beliefs than what you’ve grown up learning. As a young person in that situation, you have a choice to go into two directions. You either (a) cling to your first set of customs and beliefs or (b) you adopt new customs and beliefs. There is a third option, but for the sake of the movie, the two extremes will be enough. (If you want to know the third option, let me know.) Ayisha was hiding her newly found belief because she knew she would be persecuted and shunned from her family. You could tell by the look in her eyes the first time see her on screen. When she had to face her extremely angry and emotionally torn father during the “I have no daughter” scene, you can see that she’s absolutely scared, but you also get to see her strong devotion to the Christian faith. She stood by it and wasn’t afraid to admit it.
She gets a happy ending too. After her fall from “grace”, she runs to the Christian church and gets help. The next time we see her, she’s making her way into the Newsboys concert and look at that… she’s sitting behind Josh. I can only hope that the two of them get together somewhere down the road and live happily ever after. (I’m not kidding either. I saw the chemistry, and Ayisha has integrity. She was the one who spoke first between the two of them. Sparks flew in that very brief scene.)
God’s Not Dead is a powerful movie, and for those who have lost their faith or struggling to find one, I’m not trying to say that Christianity is the answer. I’m not trying to shove any religious opinion on you. I’m not trying to thump the Bible down on your head. This is a powerful movie in the literary-entertainment factor. It’s drama 100% of the word. It covers some of the hard realities of religion, domestic and global. You get to experience Mina and her struggle to simply be herself, Ayisha and her conversion from Islam to Christianity. Then, there’s Martin (Paul Kwo) who is a Christian convert from Buddhism, and you also get to meet a pastor (Pastor Dave, portrayed by David A.R. White) who’s struggling to find his footing as a church leader. There are so many other plots other than the conflict between Raddisson and Josh that you end up getting emotionally invested in one or two or all the characters.
Overall, I give God’s Not Dead:
4 out of 5 clappers
(a) Ability to tie all story lines together (not all movies can do that in such little time)
(b) Getting the public to ask themselves what they believe (I enjoy movies that make me ask questions)
(c) Exposes the reality of multi-cultural individuals
(d) Good drama quality